Recently, I wrote about William Hay, his disappearance from Stoneham, Massachusetts c1780, and reappearance in Vermont.
Today, we will look at a second disappearing act – Abiel Brown – who just happens to be the father-in-law of William Hay. However, I don’t believe their disappearances from local town records are connected.
Abiel Brown was born 7 July 1715 in Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, the son of Josiah Brown and Susannah Goodwin.
On 25 March 1736, Abiel married Sarah Green, daughter of Deacon Daniel Green and Mary Bucknam of Stoneham, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
I have no idea what Abiel’s occupation was – perhaps he was a shoemaker like William Hay – but there is not a single mention of his name in the grantor or grantee land indexes of Middlesex County, Massachusetts so farming, even for sustenance, was not his thing.
His father, Josiah, owned land, but in his will passed it on to his sons Nathaniel and Jonathan.
Abiel and Sarah apparently settled at Wakefield, Massachusetts after their marriage, as their first child was born there and a second baby died there in 1738. The family then moved on to Stoneham, where the rest of their children were born.
- Abiel, baptized 26 December 1736; died 13 December 1737
- Child, died April 1738
- Abiel, born 21 May 1740; died before 30 June 1776 when widow Thankful (MNU) gave birth to her son Abiel in Reading.
- Huldi, born 10 May 1745; married Daniel Green, January 1765
- Phebe, born 29 March 1747; died 17 February 1783; married William Hay, 25 January 1765.
- Daniel Green, born 11 February 1748/49; died 18 December 1826; married Rebecca Smith, 2 May 1771.
- Mary, born 9 May 1750; married John Crocker, 9 November 1769.
- William, born 3 August 1752; no further record
- Eunice, born 16 May 1755; perhaps the one who married Jacob Goodale of Southborough on 29 October 1771 in Stoneham.
Now, here is the mystery. Abiel was living at the time his father, Josiah, wrote his will on 5 June 1752 and when it was proved in court on 9 September 1754:
Middlesex County, MA Probate File 3121
Source: American Ancestors
Item. I Give and Bequeath to my Son abiel Brown or to his Heirs the Sum of Twenty one pounds Six Shillings and eight pence in Lawful money of New England to be paid in an Equal proportion by my Two Sons Nathaniel and Jonathan to the Said abiel or to his Heirs in convenient time after the decease of my wife. also I hereby (order?) my said Two Sons Nathll and Jonathan to pay in behalf of my Son abiel the Sum of about forty pounds in Lawful money of New England more or less for the payment of which Sum is part I am Bound with and for the Said abiel to the Town of Stoneham and as to the rest of Said Sum, my Son Jonathan is bound for, and with the said Abiel, to Capt. Peter Hay and to William Johnson in Separate obligations. To be paid in an Equal proportion by my Said Two Sons Nathll & Jonathan in Convenient time after my decease if it Shall not appear to be paid before. Likewise I Give him one third of all my wearing apparel and one third of al my books only Excepting as afforesaid to Nathaniel and to my wife as given to them in their Parragraphs. The above mentioned legacy i give to my said Son Abiel in addition to what he hath allready received and notwithstanding he hath in writing Quitted my estate.
One further record has been found:
This is a warning out notice from Stoneham, where the family had lived since at least May 1740, when Abiel’s son, Abiel Jr., was born. It’s interesting that Abiel Sr. and Jr. were warned out when Jr. had been born in the town. The notice is undated, but the previous page notes that a warned out family had arrived on 18 July 1757, so this entry likely dates from later in 1757.
From Josiah Brown’s will, it seems that Abiel Sr. had some mounting debts and since he had been born in Reading, perhaps Stoneham townsmen preferred to have Reading deal with him.
The only other record in which Abiel’s name comes up is at the death of his wife, Sarah, on 6 May 1769, notably in Reading, at which time she is called the widow of Abiel.
Therefore, Abiel died sometime between 18 July 1757 and 6 May 1769. That’s a wide time span.
Where and when did Abiel die? Wife Sarah’s estate was inventoried when she died, in spite of the fact that she owned no real estate and her household belongings weren’t extravagant. Her death is also recorded in Stoneham.
Why, then, isn’t Abiel’s death recorded and his estate inventoried in Massachusetts?
It surely would have had more monetary value than that of Sarah’s.
For many years, I have had no answer to these questions. Recently, though, I took a new look at Massachusetts records and believe I’ve found a clue.
I’ve never noticed this before, so taking a new look is a good thing:
Reading, MA Vital Records
Abiel Brown had a son named Abiel who married Thankful (MNU). That is a mystery, too, since Massachusetts marriages tend to be well documented in this time period.
However, Abiel’s disappearance and Thankful’s unknown maiden name might be linked to the birth of the son of Abiel Jr. and Thankful on 7 June 1769.
Although it is recorded in Reading, Massachusetts, Abiel III was born at “Rousik at the Easterd” with the note that it is probably Arrowsic, Maine, on the eastern bank of the Kennebec River.
I think that Abiel Sr., possibly with his whole family, and Abiel Jr. went to Lincoln County, Maine with the idea of settling there.
Could the Browns have headed to Maine in the spring of 1765? That might have been the catalyst for daughters Huldi and Phebe to marry in January of that year.
Life in Maine must have been difficult and the family eventually returned to Massachusetts without Abiel Sr. Abiel Jr. had also died by 30 June 1776, when his son Abiel was born to widow Thankful Brown in Reading.
Widow Thankful Brown married (2) Jacob Walton, 8 July 1783 in Reading, but the couple then lived in Wakefield where Jacob died on 4 September 1789 of consumption, aged 69 years.
Thankful died on 11 April 1800 in Rowley, Essex, Massachusetts, aged 62 years, so born c1737.
I have read deed indexes and court records for Lincoln County, Maine, but so far have not found any reference to Abiel Brown. Given that he never owned land in Massachusetts, it isn’t surprising to not find him in Maine land deeds.
As for court records, they are very limited in that time period so it isn’t really a surprise that he isn’t mentioned in them either.
Probate records list a couple of Browns, but not Abiel Sr. or Abiel Jr. Abiel Jr. may also have died in Maine.
However, now at least I think I know where Abiel Brown might have died, if the family move to Reading after being warned out of Stoneham.